V-Dem Data Users’ Working Paper Series

Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) would like to encourage users downloading the data to submit first versions of papers, for online publication by the V-Dem Institute as “V-Dem Data Users’ Working Paper Series”.


- We think of it as a helpful collective action to gather many papers using V-Dem data in one place for easy access.

- We also think it is a nice way to recognize the service on over 50 people over several years that created this dataset.

Please submit your paper by email to natalia.stepanova@v-dem.net

Template for the Working Paper format could be found here  Working Paper Template.docx (115.1 KB) .

V-Dem Users' Working Papers


Autocratic Legislatures and Party Institutionalization

Author: Matthew Charles Wilson

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 7. July 2017

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What explains the institutionalization of political parties in non-democratic settings?  Drawing on the work of scholars who portray institutions as a response to credible regime threats, I argue that institutional choice in non-democracies depends in large part on the extent to which the masses are mobilized.  In countries in which citizens posed little threat to state formation, regimes were significantly less likely to rely on party institutionalization to gain legitimacy—instead, they focused on building institutions that co-opted individual elites, which is accomplished in part through nonpartisan legislatures.  In contrast, the credibility of threats presented by mass groups prompted the emergence and strengthening of party-based rule, which did not necessarily connote democratization.  Using newly released data from the Varieties of Democracy Project (V-Dem) I evaluate the determinants of party institutionalization, showing that internal armed conflict is a positive predictor of greater party institutionalization in less democratic states.  The same is not true of the most intense conflicts, however, underscoring the difference between the threat versus the realization of large-scale revolution.  By focusing on mass opposition and party institutionalization, this study supports policymakers’ endeavors to better understand the relationship between power asymmetries, commitments, and institutions.


The Long March. Contentious Mobilization & Deep Democracy

Authors: Mohammad Ali Kaviar, Adaner Usmani, Benjamin H. Bradlow

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 6. June 2017

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Over the last several decades, dozens of authoritarian regimes have fallen and been replaced by formal democracies. These new democracies are not all of identical quality--some have made substantially greater progress than others towards deepening democratic institutions. We make use of a new dataset which identifies five distinct dimensions of democratization in order to study this variation. We argue that prolonged unarmed contentious mobilization prior to transition drives democratic progress in each of these five dimensions. Mobilization matters because it generates a new, democratically-oriented political elite and because it furnishes non-elites with the capacity for autonomous collective action. In panel regressions spanning the 1950 to 2010 period and using original data, we show that the duration of antecedent anti-authoritarian mobilization is a significant and consistent predictor of subsequent democratic deepening. To illustrate the mechanisms, we present a historical analysis of democratic transition in Brazil. This case study shows how both formal political actors and non-elite collective actors, emboldened by prolonged mobilization, drove deepening of democracy post-transition. 


Electoral Democracy and Corruption: A Cross-National Study 

Author: Alexander Blums

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 5. June 2017

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This paper adds to the academic debate on if and how corruption levels vary with changing levels of democracy. I begin by positioning my work among existing academic research, identifying causal mechanisms for the relationship and addressing some of the concerns associated with defining and measuring corruption and democracy.  I then propose two hypotheses: (H1) that democracy levels affect perceived corruption levels in the short-term (institutional explanation) and (H2) that democracy levels affect perceived corruption in the long-term (cultural explanation). I control for other variables commonly cited in the literature, such as economic development, levels of Protestantism and colonial heritage. This is the first comparative research paper exploring the relationship between democracy and corruption to utilize the recently published “Varieties of Democracy v6.2” dataset, which contains high-quality data on historical democracy levels for most countries around the world. To test the hypotheses, I build 6 OLS regression models containing data on 173 countries, utilizing 1436 data points. Contrary to much of the academic literature, this study finds that when controlling for economic development, levels of Protestantism and colonial heritage, democracy levels remain a statistically significant predictor of corruption in both the short and long term. The results of this study suggest a need to re-visit previously popular short-term institutional explanations of corruption. The study also notes some interesting observations and identifies gaps in the literature where future research would be needed to develop a more holistic explanation of corruption.


Correlation of Democracy Indicators and Markets Returns 

Authors: Scott Axelrod, James Leitner

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 4. December 2016

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We perform various experiments correlating past changes of social indicators about a country with future stock market returns for that country. The 169 social indicators we use, which go back as far as the year 1900, are available from the Varieties of Democracy Project. We use two sets of data for country-wide stock market returns: data compiled by Dimson, Marsh, and Staunton covers 17 countries going back to 1900, and data from the MSCI data analytics and index service covering 45 countries going back as far as 1970. We consider five and ten year time windows. This gives us four different “studies”: MSCI 10 year, DMS 10 year, MSCI 5 year, and DMS 5 year.

We find the striking result that good changes of the social indicators have a positive mean (averaged over studies) total correlation (correlation of change vectors indexed by country-year pairs) with future stock market returns in 157 out of 158 cases in which the indicator measures something good or bad for society. We obtain a result almost as strong when the correlation is aggregated differently using the separate country and year groupings. We perform statistical hypothesis testing to show that, even though the social indicators are not all independent, these result are exceedingly unlikely to be the result of random (white noise) stock market returns.

We also perform “positive linear regression” of stock market return on all 158 indicators, which means that the sign of the regression coefficient for an indicator is constrained to be positive or negative according to whether a positive change of the indicator is good or bad. The fraction of data explained by positive regression is shown to be extremely statistical significant. We calculate a confidence interval for the percentage of data genuinely explained by regression, not just by fitting to noise. The lower end of the confidence window for the four studies is 11%, 14%, 6%, and 9%.

We include a long appendix on the statistical theory of correlation and (unconstrained) regression. This provides background to the novel applications of hypothesis testing and confidence interval calculation in the body of the paper. 


Nonviolent Resistance and the Quality of Democracy 

Authors: Felix S. Bethke, Jonathan Pinckney 

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users Working Paper No. 3. July 2016

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Previous research has shown that successful nonviolent resistance (NVR) campaigns are more likely to promote the growth of democratic political systems compared to violent revolutions. The decentralized organizational structure and pluralistic practices of nonviolent campaigns serve as a template for future political arrangements during and after the initial democratic transition. However, research to date has not disaggregated this finding to address the mechanisms and pathways that produce these effects on democratic quality. In this paper we address this gap by analyzing the effect of NVR on the quality of democracy for a sample of 101 regimes between 1945 and 2010, using an index of polyarchy and its sub-components: (1) elected executive, (2) free and fair elections, (3) freedom of expression, (4) associational autonomy, and (5) inclusive citizenship. Using local linear matching and differences-in- differences estimation, we find that initiating a democratic transition through NVR improves democratic quality after transition significantly and substantially relative to cases without this characteristic. Our analysis of the sub-components of polyarchy reveals that this positive effect comes about primarily due to improvements in freedom of expression, with no significant difference along the other dimensions of polyarchy.  



Democracies in Crisis: How Do Levels of Democracy Affect Economic Outcomes in Crises of the Developing World? 

Author: Dash Holland 

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users Working Paper No. 2. June 2016

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This paper estimates how levels and changes of democracy affect economic outcomes around economic crises, using yearly data from the Varieties of Democracy project. I observe the different impacts on factors like the debt-to-GDP ratio, GDP growth, and the exchange rate to the US dollar. While my model finds statistically significant results for many of these factors, the overall impact of democracy is found to be small and appears to be specific to certain regions or specific economic crises rather than having a generalizable trend. I also discuss possible limitations to my findings. 


Democracy and State Capacity Revisited: An Investigation of Democracy’s Consequences for State Capacity 

Author: Lasse Egendal Leipziger 

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users Working Paper No. 1. June 2016

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Does democracy foster increased state capacity? An answer to this question has crucial implications for many countries that have democratized during the Third Wave of Democratization but demonstrate serious shortcomings in terms of state capacity. In this paper, I critically examine existing theoretical work on the topic, in particular the notion of J-shaped relationship, and subsequently develop three causal pathways through which democracy might enhance the administrative capacity of the state. Two hypotheses are derived expecting a) that a country’s level of democracy affects its administrative capacity, and b) that the duration of the democratic regime affects its administrative capacity. The hypotheses are subjected to empirical assessment trough a statistical, time-series cross-sectional analysis of 122 countries during the third wave. For this purpose, I use V-Dem data1 which is arguably better suited for the empirical assessment compared to existing indicators. The results from the empirical evaluation suggest that the contemporary level of democracy has no robust impact whereas the extent of experience with democracy appears to have a positive and substantively interesting effect. I conclude that democracy does advance state administrative capacity, but only when considered as a cumulative, historical phenomenon. 



V-Dem does not do quality control and therefore does not endorse the content of the papers, which is the responsibility of the authors only.